Are rich ‘profiting’ from ‘creeping’ authoritarianism? De Lima wants to know

January 3, 2018 - 12:24 PM
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File photos of Sen. Leila de Lima (from Philstar) and President Rodrigo Duterte (from Malacanang)

MANILA, Philippines — Detained Senator Leila de Lima is wondering if an increase in the satisfaction among the elite classes in President Rodrigo Duterte means “they are, in fact, profiting” from what she called “creeping martial and authoritarian rule.”

She went as far as accusing members of the elite of being complicit in the march towards authoritarianism in her “Dispatch from Crame No. 215,” the latest of the handwritten statements she has regularly issued from the Philippine National Police Custodial Center, where she is locked up.

“In truth,” she said, “as in any authoritarian regime that denounces the Rule of Law, it is the moneyed, powerful and influential people who rule, while the rest of the Filipino people suffer.”

De Lima, who is facing trial for her alleged involvement in the drug trade inside the National Bilibid Prison, cited the Fourth Quarter 2017 Social Weather Survey of polling firm Social Weather Stations, which showed Duterte’s net satisfaction rating rebound to a “very good” +58 in December from his “good” +48 in September.

Part of his spike came from a 9-point rise in his net satisfaction rating among society’s top-tier ABC class, from +57 in September to +66 in December.

The other classes also showed more satisfaction in Duterte — a “very good” +57 in class D, an eight-point rise from a “good” +49 in September and class E’s even larger boost, a “very good” +65 in December or a 30-point jump from September’s “good” +35.

However, De Lima focused on the increased satisfaction among what she called the “ultra rich,” or the A and B, “which I presume accounts for perhaps the best educated and informed members of society,” and asked how they could “find satisfaction in what is happening in our country lately.”

De Lima described the country’s situation thus:

  • A “peace and order situation” where people are being killed in the streets and in their homes in deadly so-called “police operations” connected with the “war on drugs.”
  • Rampant corruption and influence peddling being committed with impunity by those close to the President – with those who are caught merely being made to lie low for a while before being rewarded with appointment to other government posts.
  • An abominable traffic situation that has already bled outside of the Metro Manila area.
  • A strange and disturbing pivot to a foreign power that is known for political repression, human rights violations and, perhaps most pertinently, a history (and, indeed, a persisting track record) of taking undue economic advantage of other countries, even going so far as to undermine our sovereignty and the integrity of our territory, and to blatantly exploit our natural resources.
  • A leader who is intolerant to criticisms, who crushes dissent and has made vulgarity and bullying a standard behavior.

“Why would the ABs stand for these?” she said.

“Or perhaps I am asking the wrong question,” she added. “Perhaps the right question is not ‘why’, but ‘who’ and ‘what’.”

“Who are these A and Bs? What are their interests? Perhaps the answer to ‘why’ follows the answers to these,” De Lima said.

She then tried to list the likely reasons why the A and B classes saw nothing wrong with the situation:

  • Perhaps they are satisfied with what’s going on because they are not adversely affected by the stuff that are happening to our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
  • Is it because theirs are not the sons and the daughters being murdered in cold blood?
  • Is it because theirs are not the homes and the privacy being invaded, they with their high concrete and steel gates hiding behind the security of gated communities?
  • Is it because theirs are not the homes being ravaged by martial law and armed conflict?
  • Is it because they are not daily wage earners who have no choice but to battle through heavy traffic just to earn a measly living?
  • Is it because they don’t even have to tolerate the traffic and other adverse conditions that the rest of us have to live with because they can simply hop on a plane and vacation anywhere else in the world at any time of their choosing?

And then she wondered if “they are satisfied because they are, in fact, profiting from the situation.”

“Is it because they are among those who have the ears of those in power?” she asked. “Is it because they are among the ultra rich who are said to have been graced by super low interest loans or financing from China? Is it because they are among the elite whose money and power can buy them a seat in a post-revolutionary government/Charter change era?”

“Put simply, perhaps it is because money talks and those holding the reins of power listen,” she said.